Building Committee plans to improve school airflow

Thu, 10/01/2020 - 7:30pm

An extensive study of the Block Island School’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that was completed last March, but not implemented due to the pandemic shutdown, is once again back on the table as the school considers options on how to improve airflow inside the building.

School Supt. Mike Convery said that, due to the mild weather, air flow is not yet posing a problem because a good portion of school activities are taking place outside.

But with the cold weather coming in, upgrades will have to happen.

The HVAC study was completed by consulting engineers Garcia, Galuska and DeSousa. It includes three options that the School Building Committee, which met on Monday, Sept. 28, can consider.

There is a baseline option, that will cost $1.4 million; an option B that is described as a “mid-level HVAC system replacement and upgrades” that will cost $2,402,049. There is a third, “major” upgrade option that would cost $2,437,442.

Town Facilities Manager Sam Bird said in the meeting that he would like to “take a couple of pieces and parts” of the options “and do a little mix and match.” Bird said he didn’t think it would change the pricing but would tailor the plans for the school’s specific needs. Bird said he wanted to set up a meeting with the engineers to discuss the options.

“I don’t want to put a Band-aid on this where in 10 years you have to do it all over again,” said Committee Chair Bill Padien. “I’d rather do it right the first time rather than redo it.”

The members of the committee were also a bit concerned that the engineers had not included “the Block Island factor’ in their pricing, which would only make the cost go up. Town Finance Director Amy Land said she factors in as much as a 30 percent increase in project costs due to the challenging aspects of construction jobs here. “That tends to be my number,” she said.

“I think going forward on an estimate of this kind is tricky,” said Bird.

“Why don’t we plan on meeting?” Land said to Bird. “We’ll find an hour and plan our financing and a bid process schedule.”

“That would be great,” said Bird.

“I think we can get it out to bid by the first of the year and get feedback in late February or March. That would put us in good stead, but we know how the bid process works on Block Island,” said Padien.

The school has already taken steps to improve airflow. The School Committee ordered new fans and motors for the roof. Bird said he was taking measurements and would order the equipment soon. There are also about 40 box fans placed throughout the building.